Antitrust Law Daily FCC chair moves for vote to approve T-Mobile/Sprint combination
Wednesday, August 14, 2019

FCC chair moves for vote to approve T-Mobile/Sprint combination

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

Antitrust chief commends agency on moving forward with completion of review.

Concluding that the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint "will promote robust competition in mobile broadband, put critical mid-band spectrum to use, and bring new competition to the fixed broadband market," Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai today recommended approval of the deal. Pai shared with his fellow commissioners a draft Order that would allow the merger to proceed, subject to conditions. Pai described the agency's review of the deal as "one of the most exhaustive merger reviews in Commission history."

According to Pai’s statement, based on a comprehensive review of the proposed transaction, which was announced in April 2018, the deal would be in the public interest subject to the divestiture of Boost Mobile, along with other conditions, intended to address the potential for competitive harm from the transaction.

On July 26, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that, along with five states, it reached a settlement with T-Mobile and Sprint regarding competition concerns over their proposed merger. The Justice Department filed a complaint and proposed final judgment in the federal district court in Washington, D.C.

Under the terms of the proposed final judgment, T-Mobile and Sprint must divest Sprint’s prepaid business, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint prepaid, to Dish Network Corp., a Colorado-based satellite television provider. The proposed settlement also provides for the divestiture of certain spectrum assets to Dish. Additionally, T-Mobile and Sprint must make available to Dish at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations. T-Mobile must also provide Dish with robust access to the T-Mobile network for a period of seven years while Dish builds out its own 5G network. If approved by the federal district court, the final judgment will resolve the Justice Department’s antitrust concerns raised in the complaint.

Antitrust chief’s reaction. In response to today’s FCC announcement, Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, "commend[ed] the FCC on passing this important milestone toward approval of the merger and divestiture, and congratulate[d] them on completing their thorough review and analysis." Delrahim added: "We are now one step closer to strengthening competition for high-quality 5G networks that will benefit American consumers nationwide."

Companies: Deutsche Telekom AG; DISH Network Corp.; Sprint Corp.; T-Mobile US, Inc.

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